Concurrent Disorders & Complex Needs

The term "concurrent disorder" (also described as dual diagnosis or co-morbidity) describes a condition in which a person has both a mental illness and a substance use problem. This term is a general one that refers to a wide range of mental illnesses and addictions, and treatment approaches for each case could be quite different. "Complex needs" usually refers to when an individual has three or more interrelated issues, such as mental illness, substance misuse, physical disability, and homelessness. These needs, often in combination with one another, require individuals to access services and support from a wide variety of government systems and community organizations.

People diagnosed with a concurrent disorder generally have shorter life expectancies, are more likely to experience homelessness, have more frequent acute psychiatric admissions, and spend less time in hospital per admission than those without. Common program elements include comprehensive assessment, intensive case management, supported housing, peer groups for support and therapy, training in independent living skills, and mental health and substance use treatment. Program philosophies typically include acceptance and tolerance of relapses, an emphasis on structured approaches, clear expectations within residential programs, and a commitment to long-term care.1

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